Another Granato making a case for the family name in Buffalo

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tony Granato can laugh now in recalling how angry he was at his brother Don for giving up goaltending at 15 and switching to forward.

Tony regarded his younger sibling as one of the better goalies he faced, even at three years younger, and worried Don was throwing away his future for not wanting to ride the bench every second game as part of a rotation.

“I basically said, `This is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard you say,’” the Wisconsin coach and former NHL player said.

That might have been the last time Tony questioned his brother’s life decisions.

Not only did Don Granato teach himself the position by spending hours poring over video — mostly of Wayne Gretzky — to learn the nuances of scoring, he followed in Tony’s footsteps four years later by landing a scholarship from Wisconsin.

“It was really an incredible feat,” Tony Granato said. “That’s where I learned there’s more than just being a hockey player, and there’s a special thinking part of the game that he has that I don’t have.”

The Granato family hockey pecking order is daunting. Tony played 13 NHL seasons and sister Cammi is a two-time Olympian, the first female Hockey Hall of Fame inductee and a scout for the NHL expansion team Seattle Kraken. Another brother, Rob, also played Division I hockey.

Yet the Buffalo Sabres interim coach is known by his siblings as “the smart one.”

“There’s really a simple reason for that,” Don Granato explains. “When you have a brother who’s three years older, and he’s a bit of a bully, you have no option.

“You’re not going to win by brawn,” he said, chuckling. “You had to figure out tactics.”

At 53, Granato might finally be emerging out of their shadows a month into his new role following Ralph Krueger’s dismissal.

Taking over a team in the midst of an 18-game winless skid, Granato has coaxed a competitive edge out of a young and injury-depleted roster and one that just lost captain Jack Eichel for the rest of what has been a miserable season. The last-place Sabres are 4-2-2 in their past eight following an 0-5-1 start under Granato.

His first NHL head-coaching opportunity comes after spending 27 years crisscrossing the continent, working in most every pro league as a coach and assistant, and five years at USA Hockey’s developmental program.

Granato leaned on those experiences in simplifying Buffalo’s approach by emphasizing speed and forechecking. And he eased his players’ frustrations by focusing on making gradual improvements.

“My message to the team the first day I took over was just that: `This streak is not going to define us. So just stop. Stop the worries. Stop the concern, the anxiety,’” Granato said. “I didn’t want to win just one game. I want us to win consistently.”

He didn’t veer from his message when Buffalo’s skid hit 18 after blowing a three-goal, third-period lead in a 4-3 overtime loss to Philadelphia on March 29. Two days later, with Buffalo up 4-1 entering the third period against Philadelphia, Granato’s put aside providing a pep talk by instead saying he was placing ownership on his players in an eventual 6-1 victory.

“A big part of coaching is knowing when to get out of the way,” Granato said. “We want our guys to become independently strong, we want to empower them. That’s a process. Any time you can hand that off to the group, that helps that process.”

Granato’s calming influence is reflected in what Cammi once said about her brother in a story published by USA Hockey: “Donnie was the one who could talk you through mentally. He was a guy you could have a lengthy conversation with and you’d feel so much better when you were done.”

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin has enjoyed a boost of confidence under Granato.

“I love him as a coach,” Dahlin said. “We do all the things he says, and it works. He makes all the players very confident. Yeah, he’s doing something special.”

Opposing coaches have noticed a difference.

“They’re not sitting back as much in the neutral zone. They seem to be playing more on their toes,” New York Rangers coach David Quinn said.

The sample size is small, but Granato has emerged as a candidate to take over on a full-time basis.

“I think from the beginning, I always thought Donnie should be part of this conversation regardless of what happens,” general manager Kevyn Adams said. “What I see right now out of our team is a team that’s playing with a purpose.“

Granato doesn’t lack in qualifications.

He’s twice worked as an NHL assistant under Joel Quenneville. At the AHL level, he’s coached against Mike Babcock, Claude Julien, Mike Sullivan and Bruce Boudreau. With USA Hockey, Granato developed players such as Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk and Boston’s Charlie McAvoy.

Granato is comfortable with his journey, believing every step has been valuable, while staying in the moment and refusing to look ahead.

“This feels natural. I don’t know if I would’ve felt that way 10 years ago,” he said. “No matter what happens, we’ll all be OK.”

His minor-league experience prepared him for the chaos of this season and uncertainty of an ever-changing roster, with three players traded over the past two weeks. His time developing teens at USA Hockey is also considered a plus with salary-cap dynamics forcing teams to get more production out of younger players.

Tony Granato is pleased his brother is finally gaining attention. He remembers Don breaking down video on a VCR he received for his 15th birthday.

“He would dissect the game to talk about different things, and we’re kids, and we’re like, `Come on, Donnie, stop,” he recalled. “But he always thought of the game in a tactical way.”

The smart one.

“That’s correct,” Tony Granato said. “Cammi and I and Robbie were all on emotion and energy. Donnie could think it through and say, `Woah, slow down here.′ Yes, that is 100% accurate.”

Sharks goalie James Reimer declines to wear Pride jersey

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San Jose Sharks goalie James Reimer won’t take part in pregame warmups Saturday night, saying the team’s decision to wear Pride-themed jerseys in support of the LGBTQ community runs counter to his religious beliefs.

Reimer said in a statement Saturday that he made the decision based on his Christian beliefs, adding that he “always strived to treat everyone with respect” and that members of the LGBTQ community should be welcome in hockey.

“In this specific instance, I am choosing not to endorse something that is counter to my personal convictions, which are based on the Bible, the highest authority in life,” Reimer said.

Reimer is the second NHL player this season to refuse to take part in warmups with Pride-themed jerseys, with Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov declining to in January. Reimer was not slated to start in Saturday night’s home game against the New York Islanders, which is Pride night.

Additionally, the New York Rangers opted not to wear Pride jerseys or use Pride stick tape as part of their night in January despite previously advertising that plan.

The Sharks said in a statement that they are proud to host Pride Night, saying the event reinforces the team’s commitment to inclusiveness.

“As we promote these standards, we also acknowledge and accept the rights of individuals to express themselves, including how or whether they choose to express their beliefs, regardless of the cause or topic,” the team said in a statement. “As an organization, we will not waver in our support of the LGBTQIA+ community and continue to encourage others to engage in active allyship.”

The You Can Play Project, which works to promote inclusiveness in sports, said the organization was disappointed in Reimer’s actions.

“Religion and respect are not in conflict with each other, and we are certainly disappointed when religion is used as a reason to not support our community,” the organization said. “Wearing pride jerseys, like any celebration jersey worn, is not about the personal feelings of an athlete; rather the communication from the team that a community is welcome in the arena and the sport.”

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Panarin, Shesterkin lead Rangers to 6-0 rout of Penguins

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NEW YORK (AP) Mika Zibanejad had a goal and two assists, Artemi Panarin scored twice and Igor Shesterkin made 33 saves as the New York Rangers routed Pittsburgh 6-0 on Saturday night for their second win over the Penguins in three days.

Vladimir Tarasenko, Chris Kreider and Jacob Trouba also scored for the surging Rangers, who have won nine of their last 11 home games and are 12-4-0 in their past 16 at Madison Square Garden.

Shesterkin won his fifth straight and posted his second shutout this season. He nimbly denied Pittsburgh forward Mikael Granland with a sprawling save five minutes into the third period to preserve the shutout, the 10th of his career. His other one this season was a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on Nov. 1.

“When you put in hard and honest work, miracles happen,” Shesterkin said through a translator. ”We played wonderfully today – scored many, many goals. Honestly, I hope the fans loved it. We’re playing for them.”

The Penguins lost their third straight and trail the Rangers by 12 points for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh, still in wild-card position, is trying to reach the playoffs for the 17th straight time.

“Tonight was a humbling experience for all of us,” coach Mike Sullivan said. ”At this time of year, you have to have a short memory. We still have control of our destiny.”

Patrick Kane and defenseman K’Andre Miller also had two assists apiece as New York improved to 7-1-1 in its last nine home games against Pittsburgh. The Rangers are five points behind the second-place New Jersey Devils, who lost at Florida on Saturday.

“This was a big game for our goalie and our team,” Panarin said. “If you work at playing the right way, you have opportunities for goals.”

Since Dec. 5, when they turned around their season with a 6-4 comeback win at home over St. Louis, the Rangers are 29-9-5.

As he did on Thursday when the Rangers beat the Penguins 4-2, Zibanejad opened the scoring. He got his team-leading 36th goal at 5:10 of the first, beating Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. Trouba and Miller assisted.

Panarin made it 2-0 at 19:49 on the power play, whipping the puck past Jarry from the left circle off a pass from Adam Fox.

Tarasenko increased the lead at 3:54 of the second with his fifth goal since joining the Rangers in a trade with St. Louis on Feb. 9. Tarasenko has points in 10 of his first 18 games with the Rangers.

Kreider made it 4-0 at 6:43 with his 31st goal and third in two games against the Penguins. Kane and Vincent Trocheck assisted on Kreider’s 260th career goal, which moved the Rangers forward within two of Vic Hadfield for fifth place on the franchise list.

New York won Thursday when Kreider scored the go-ahead goal in the third and added an empty-netter.

After Casey DeSmith replaced Jarry in net following Kreider’s goal, Trouba beat the replacement with a sharp-angle shot at 8:39 for his eighth to increase the margin to 5-0. Trouba has points in six of his last eight games.

Panarin scored again at 16:38 of the second – his 22nd goal of the season – to make it 6-0, with assists to Kane and Filip Chytil.

“We’re building chemistry, building every day and every game,” Kane said.

Panarin has points in eight of his last 10 games and leads the Rangers with 77 points overall, while Kane has seven points in his last six games.

“It’s nice to see that many great players on your team,” added Panarin, whose first two NHL seasons were played alongside Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks. “We’re happy tonight.”

Zibanejad assisted on goals by Tarasenko and Trouba and has 25 points – including 14 goals – over his last 20 games.

“It was just one of those nights when the puck goes in for us,” Zibanejad said. “And obviously Igor gives us a boost making all those saves.”

NOTES: The Penguins were missing defenseman Jeff Petry after he was hit with an unpenalized elbow from Rangers forward Tyler Motte on Thursday. … Pittsburgh also scratched defenseman Jan Rutta and forward Dalton Heinen and played defenseman Mark Friedman for the first time since Feb. 11. … The Rangers were without injured defenseman Ryan Lindgren for the 10th straight game.


Penguins: Host the Ottawa Senators on Monday.

Rangers: Host the Nashville Predators on Sunday night.

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Coyotes sign Shane Doan’s son to entry-level contract

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Josh Doan is following his father’s footsteps into professional hockey.

The Arizona Coyotes signed the 21-year-old forward to a three-year entry-level contract, beginning with the 2023-24 NHL season. He will report to the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL and play his first game against the Calgary Wranglers.

Doan’s father, Shane, played 21 seasons with the franchise, many of those as captain, and followed it from Winnipeg to the desert in 1996. Shane Doan now serves as Arizona’s chief hockey development officer.

The Coyotes drafted Josh Doan in the second round of the 2021, but he opted to play for the hometown Arizona State Sun Devils.

Josh Doan set school records for goals (12) and assists (25) as a freshman last season. He had 16 goals and 22 assists in 39 games with Arizona State this season.

The 6-foot-1, 183-pounder also played two seasons for the Chicago Steel of the USHL.

Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman has shoulder surgery

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CHICAGO — Chicago Blackhawks forward Cole Guttman had surgery on his right shoulder.

The team said the operation was performed in Los Angeles. Team physician Michael Terry said the 23-year-old Guttman is expected “to be out of hockey activities for approximately four months.”

Guttman had been a pleasant surprise for rebuilding Chicago. He made his NHL debut last month and finished the season with four goals and two assists in 14 games.

Guttman was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2017 draft. He agreed to a two-year contract with Chicago in August 2022 that had a $950,000 salary cap hit.